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The cover illustration features an old house at night, with the door slightly ajar, and a strange figure illuminated in the window.
When the Benson family take their first trip to Dark Falls to meet with the local real estate agent, Compton Dawes, to see their new home, the kids - Amanda and Josh Benson - and their dog Petey immediately sense that something is not quite right. Despite the fact that it is the middle of July, the entire neighborhood seems covered in an artificial darkness created by the shadows of massive, overhanging tree limbs. Dead brown leaves, shade, and shadows are everywhere, not to mention the creepy old house, that appears to have been built many years ago. The house itself is an enormous, dark, antique structure, with two large bay windows on the second floor that look eerily like a pair of dark eyes staring down at the street below. While Josh proceeds to impatiently whine in protest over the family move and what a tragedy it is, Mr. Dawes begins to welcome the family into the home. Whilst exploring what will eventually be her new room, Amanda watches in amazement as she catches a glimpse of a boy standing in the doorway, before quickly disappearing along the upstairs hallway.
Amanda feels much better after seeing her new bedroom. She goes outside to tell Josh about it, but both he and Petey are gone. Mr. Dawes offers to provide directions while the family drive around town to find the missing pair. On the way Amanda finds it odd that there aren't any people in the houses or front yards, or even on the street. Eventually they find Josh trying to catch Petey among the gravestones of the Dark Falls cemetery. The kids' father, Jack, ends up catching Petey and putting him on a leash despite how erratic his behavior is. The family then drop off Mr. Dawes at his real estate office in Dark Falls, where he mentions to the Benson's that they are welcome to come back the following week to finalize the contracts for the house. After an eventful first visit, the Benson family leave Dark Falls and head back home to their old neighborhood.
It's now a Friday night and Amanda's best friend Kathy comes over on what is the Benson's last night in their old house. Amanda begins to express her sadness in leaving, however Kathy is quick to reassure Amanda that "Dark Falls is only four hours away" and that "it's not like you're moving to China or something". The following morning is moving day, and it's a rainy, windy arrival for the family in Dark Falls as they pull up to their new house. Once inside, Josh and Amanda take advantage of their creepy new surroundings, and begin to prank and scare each other until their parents force them to call a truce. After struggling to get to sleep on her first night, Amanda has a terrifying dream. She dreams that she is sitting with her family downstairs, around the very brightly lit dining room table of their new house, but her parents and Josh are all skeletons with no faces, only bits of flesh clinging to their bony cheeks. They are all sitting in silence, eating from a pile of human bones as Kathy is knocking at the door frantically.
Amanda begins to see other children and hear more whispers among other strange sounds in her home. She manages to calm herself down every time with some sort of logical explanation. She makes plans with Josh to head out and explore the neighborhood a little, and Josh mentions to her that he also had a strange dream where two boys were giggling in his room. They decide to go to the local school and on the way they bump into Ray Thurston, one of the local kids. Suddenly Amanda realizes that Ray is the boy she has seen in her room and at her window, but then quickly begins to question herself. Petey begins frantically barking at Ray, just as he did with Mr. Dawes the previous day, before the group decide to head up the street towards the playground behind the school.
On their way to the playground, they come across a group of neighborhood kids, however it's not long before the kids become menacing and begin to form a threatening circle around Amanda, Josh and Petey in the middle of the street. Mr. Dawes appears, and curiously yells out to the circle of kids as he quickly crosses the street towards them. The neighborhood kids seem to back off much to the relief of Josh and Amanda. Mr. Dawes leaves and the whole group end up moving on and start a baseball game at the playground. Amanda begins to feel much better about the kids and the neighborhood as they get together and play ball again over the next few days.
Two weeks later, Josh and Amanda are returning home from one of their baseball games, to find Petey has broken his leash and run away. They get a little disorientated running through the neighborhood looking for him but eventually gather themselves at the familiar playground near the school. With no luck, Josh becomes extremely upset and they head home and explain the situation to their parents, who decide call the police and reassure the kids that Petey will turn up. Their parents go to a potluck party in the neighborhood that night and the kids go to sleep. Josh then wakes up Amanda just after midnight, insisting that Petey must be at the cemetery because that's where he ran off on moving day when the family first arrived. They sneak out to the cemetery, agreeing that they can be back before their parents come home, however they soon realize that they are being followed.
Turns out it was Ray following them, explaining that he often goes out for walks at night as he has trouble sleeping. He is very much against the idea of going to the cemetery at night, however Amanda can't control Josh as he begins calling out for Petey in and around the cemetery. The kids end up discovering a man-made amphitheater dug into the ground in one corner of the cemetery. Ray explains that it's somewhat of a meeting place for the townspeople, much to the bewilderment of Amanda and Josh given the location. Josh swings his torch around and sees Petey but can't catch up to him as the dog keeps running off. After looking at some of the gravestones, Amanda and Josh are horrified as they recognize the familiar names of their new friends from around the neighborhood. Suddenly it's very clear that all the neighborhood kids are all dead, and have been dead for quite some time.
Ray creeps up behind his own gravestone and becomes menacing towards Amanda. He explains that Petey is now undead, having been killed by the townspeople, as dogs can sense the presence of the undead. Amanda begins backing away from Ray as he goes further to explain that he is the "watcher" for the town, and that he was supposed to make sure the Amanda and Josh didn't see the reality of Dark Falls until the townspeople were ready. His eyes begin to glow red as he goes on to say that once a year, the townspeople must have the blood from a freshly killed person to sustain their "living dead" existence for another year, and that this is the real reason the Benson's were invited to the "Dead House". Amanda then begins to suffocate as Ray's ghastly figure starts to float above her as she's backed up against a gravestone. Josh then shines his torch on Ray's face, Ray drops to the ground and Amanda begins to breathe again. The skin on Ray's face begins to sag and fall to the ground in chunks, revealing his empty skull as Amanda and Josh race out of the cemetery towards home.
Once home, they plan on telling their parents everything, but they soon realize their parents are still at the potluck party a couple of blocks away. They are then attacked by the undead neighborhood kids, who appear in their living room, and explain that Amanda and Josh never had a great uncle, and that the letter sent to their parents was a trick to bring the Benson family to Dark Falls. As they move forward to kill Amanda and Josh, they explain that they all once lived in the house, and that "once a year we need new blood", implying that they have all died in the house at some point over the years. Suddenly Mr. Dawes, the real estate agent, appears at the door and the dead children vanish. He tells them he was also at the party, that he has already saved their parents from the townspeople, and that he will take the kids to join their parents.
It's now almost sunrise as the kids get in the car with Mr. Dawes, who soon pulls up to the cemetery. They get out of Mr. Dawes', where Petey appears again before quickly racing off into the cemetery. Josh then chases after him down a row of gravestones, before tripping and landing near Mr. Dawes' gravestone. Amanda catches up with him and the pair realize that Mr. Dawes is also dead. The whole town is dead. Mr. Dawes then catches up to them and sadly begins to explain that many years ago, the majority of the townspeople worked at a plastics factor on the outskirts of town until there was an accident where a yellow gas escaped from a plastics factory, floated over the town and killed everyone. Amanda and Josh try to flash their torch on him but it's broken. Josh then throws it at Mr. Dawes' head before running run away, through the cemetery. They look back to see that Mr. Dawes isn't follow them because he needs to stay in the shade from the early morning sun. Soon they see a hoard of townspeople heading mindlessly across a row of gravestones toward the amphitheater.
They creep up behind the stumps of a large tree which casts a shadow over the entire amphitheater. The townspeople had tied the Benson's up back-to-back in the middle of the circular structure. It turns out the dead children are zombies, along with the townspeople, and that they crumble under any light. Josh and Amanda decide to push the already leaning tree over as hard as they can until it crumbles the loose earth beneath the stump. The tree falls down, revealing the morning light over all the townspeople. As soon as the sunlight fills the amphitheater, all the living dead are all killed off. Their bones crumble to dust as their skin melts off their faces and their clothes disintegrate. The horrified Benson family then regroup and head home as quickly as possible.
The Benson's decide to leave Dark Falls, and head back to their old house. As they are driving up their street away from the neighborhood for the last time, Amanda decides to get out and have one last look at the dead house. She sees another family pull up in the driveway, only someone too familiar is there, and Amanda is sure it's Mr. Dawes. She races back to the car and never looks back.
Cover Art Gallery
'Welcome to Dead House' is made available in ebook format by the following retailers:
- A follow-up to this book titled Happy Holidays from Dead House was planned for the Goosebumps Gold book series. However, both the book and the series were cancelled due to R. L. Stine's contract with Scholastic ending.
- The Dead House appears as a location in Goosebumps: The Game.
- The audio books for Welcome to Dead House are not verbatim for the novel itself. A lot of minor details are skipped over.
- Amanda and Josh's father was mentioned by name in the book: Jack Benson. Their mother was Penelope Benson in the television episode, but it is unknown if that really was her name in the book.
- Early in the book, Mr. Dawes offers to drive the Benson family around. The story suggests that Mr. Dawes is driving his own car; he even retrieves his hat from the trunk. After driving the family, Mr. Dawes stops by his real estate office and gets out, and the Benson family drives off with their car. Either Mr. Dawes had a car in or near the Benson's driveway (that he got his hat from), or R. L. Stine forgot that Mr. Dawes was not driving his own car.
- The cover of Welcome to Dead House is featured in the Goosebumps Postcard Book
- Scenes from the book were illustrated as part of the Topps Goosebumps Trading Card Set, released in 1996. The scenes illustrated were "Amanda's Dream" (front / back), "Circle of Doom" (front / back), "Death of the Living Dead" (front / back).
- Welcome to Dead House was republished for a third time as part of the Goosebumps Retro Scream Collection
- In 1997, Scholastic and Taco Bell partnered to release a series of Goosebumps toys with their kids meals. One of the first toys was a 3D puzzle based on Welcome to Dead House, titled The House in Dark Falls 3-D Puzzle.
- The description on the back of the toy is as follows: "THE MYSTERIOUS HOUSE WANTS YOU - Silent. In pieces. Waiting. It’s the house in Dark Falls. The same house featured in the GOOSEBUMPS book Welcome to Dead House. Now you can explore the mystery when you assemble this eerie 3-D puzzle. Accept the challenge if you have a steady hand and strong nerves. Be sure to look for hidden clues and surprises in this activity pack. So much fun it’s scary!"
- The gravestones dates were updated between the July 1992 original printing, and the August 2011 'Goosebumps Classics #13' re-printing.
|Compton Dawes||George Carpenter||Karen Somerset||Ray Thurston|
|1950 - 1980
|1975 - 1988
|1960 - 1972
|1977 - 1988
|1966 - 1996
|1991 - 2004
|1977 - 1989
|1993 - 2004